- Acting of Lead Performers
- Acting of Supporting Cast
- Music Score
- Title Sequence
- Historical Importance
- Would You Recommend?
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friendships & politics...
This 1934 flick was based upon a real (British) diplomat entity's book R.H.Bruce Lockhart,& a screen play by Laird Doyle.While director Michael Curtiz had a lot to work with,noting Leslie Howard (as Steven Locke) ,Kay Francis (as Elena-an intelligent & great looking commie spy),he couldn't escape the historical document accounts of the World War (now called World War I) & a movie about people involved in the game of politics.(In retrospective,this movie is pro-soviet.The real facts were not all known in 1934).You cant much blame Locke to have gotten involved with Elena (if she really existed),especially if she looked like Kay!Famed cloths designer Orry-Kelly was not called upon much for Kay in this one,as her character,did not require it.Even so,Curtiz should have used her more,which would explain 'forever becoming 20 minutes'?-Or something like that?This could have been explored & exploited!More so,Kay was good at it!It surly would have replaced a sometimes boring history lesson & some real action between revolutionary bullets & attempted political assassination & insurgency revolution.Still,film buffs will find other cast members like William Gargan,Phillip Reed,J. Carrol Naish,Mary Forbes,Donald Crisp,& others-especially Cesar Romero-some good company in political mayhem.
British Agent (1934) historical background part 2
After Germany and the Central Powers were defeated in November 1918, the allied Russian "intervention" goals shifted to one of recapture of allied materials, rescue of the Czechoslovak Legions stranded on the Trans-Siberian Railway, and defeating the communist Bolshevik army. Fighting was widespread from Arkangel to Vladivostok in northern Siberia to the Crimea and British occupation of the Baku oil fields near the Caspian Sea, in the south. After much bloodshed, most of the allies withdrew from Soviet territory in 1920, with the Japanese finally being forced by the Red army to vacate their occupied parts of Siberia in 1922, and the northern half of Sakhalin island in 1925. The end result of this first "allied (western) invasion" of Russian soil was to leave a Soviet Union forever paronoid of the "west" and determined to create a huge buffer zone of Soviet States surrounding the Russian "motherland."
British Agent (1934) historical background part 1
The historical background for this little espionage ditty, is the now almost forgotten multi-national "Allied Invasion of Russia" launched during the Russian Civil War in 1918. The "allied" list of combatants supporting the anti-Bolshevik "White" Russians army, included forces from Czechoslavakia, the UK, USA, Japan, Greece, Poland, France, Romania, Italy, China, & Serbia, against the communist Russian Bolshevik "Red" army and various supporting forces from Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, the Far Eastern Republic, and Mongolia. During WW1, the Allies, including the US and Britain, had invested heavily in support of Czarist Russia with stockpiles of weapons, munitions and supplies shipped through the ports of Arkangel, Murmansk, and Vladivostok, that were in jeopardy after the March, 1917 coup against the Czar which had, for all practicality, knocked the Russians out of WW1. The initial goal of the Allied "Intervention" was to restore the Russian monarchy and reopen the Eastern front. After the abdication and later assassination of Tsar Nicholas II and his family in July, 1918, allied goals shifted to the support of Russian Provisional Government which pledged to continue fighting the Germans on the Eastern Front. However, British intrigue in support of a failed coup to set up a military dictatorship during the 1917 "October Revolution" led to the overthrow of the provisional government, and the Bolsheviks assuming power. At that time allied Czechoslovak forces were in control of most of the Trans-Siberian railway, and major cities in Siberia, and the Bolsheviks stated that if the Czechoslovak Legions remained neutral and agreed to leave Russia, they would be granted safe passage through Siberia via Vladivostok, allowing them to eventually rejoin with the Allied forces on the Western Front. However, while enroute, fighting erupted between the Legions and the Bolsheviks in May 1918.
- Dietz Ziechmann
This film sentimentalizes the Leninist coup d'etat in Russia, confusing liberalism with Lenin's brutal totalitarianism, and repeats the canard that the Germans - not the Serbian Black Hand - started and was responsible for World War I.
BRITISH AGENTwith Leslie Howard
The year 1934, the setting and backdrop, horses, and the fact that that the movie is from a memoir of a secret agent. This to me is above 10, an A .
Exalting Leslie Howard (LH)
- Will Fox
Born April 3, 1893, Leslie Howard Steiner was one of two sons of Hungarian immigrant to England, a London stockbroker married in 1892. Debonair Englishman LH excelled, playing disillusioned intellectuals and gallant gentlemen on stages and screens in Britain and America for about 30 years. Painfully shy as a child traumatized by World War I, LH turned to the theater for therapy. Acclaimed in London, then in America on Broadway in the 1920s, he debuted Hollywood in "Outward Bound" (1930, intriguing allegory of "crossing over" on oceanliner to Heaven or else, 3.5-stars). "The Animal Kingdom" (1933, 3.5 stars) followed with publisher LH besotted by free-spirited Ann Harding, while married to manipulative Myrna Loy. Ditto depressing Bette Davis in "Of Human Bondage" (1933). He is best remembered for four, 4-stars roles: 1) swashbuckling hero in "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (1934), 2) wandering wise writer meets dreamer Davis and escaping gangster Bogart in "Petrified Forrest" (1936), 3) witty egoist, Prof. Henry Higgins in "Pygmalion" (aka "My Fair Lady," 1938, 4 stars for director star LH), and 4) milquetoast Ashley Wilkes in "Gone With the Wind" (1939). Despite his success, Howard held Hollywood in contempt. "I haven't the slightest intentions of playing another weak, watery character. I've played enough ineffectual characters already." LH told "GWTW" producer David O. Sleznick before accepting his part. In 1940 LH returned to England to fight for freedom. Leslie Howard's airplane shot down by Nazis, June 1, 1943. Exalting Leslie Howard
Loyalty to Love and The Cause
- J. R. Horne
The Russian Revolution is quite an inconvenient problem for theinstantaneous love zonk received by British diplomat Leslie Howard and Lenin's secretary Kay Francis. The brutality of the Red Army seems to only fire the passions of the two as their impossible love ignites after a chance encounter when Francis who has taken a pot shot at a soldier is chased onto the groundsof the British Embassey in Petrograd. Howard saves her life by simply demanding the soldier to scram by showing him the stiffest of upper lips. It all roils forward from there as the two are alternately snogging in gypsy cafes and plotting against each other's political positions when apart. To say the end of the filmhas justified the means of the plot is a great example of crazy movie logic that only Kay Francis, who never had trouble with ambiguous motivations, could pull off. Howard is at his natural, subtle best. Lots of fun.
Bravo for British Agent!
Leslie Howard was definitely in his most different role I've ever seen him in, a totally different and real hero in this picture. He wasn't a Scarlet Pimpernel but more of a normal person serving his country in a less patriotic way you might say compared to his role in The Scarlet Pimpernel. He was fantastic though! Kay Francis played beautifully the Russian spy who was also involved with Leslie's character in the film and so the two of them were both in love but had most different jobs. Kay fought for Russia and Leslie fought for England. The supporting cast was brilliant and the interesting directory of camera cuts and scenes taken were very different and fun to watch. This is definitely not your average film and whether you like the cast or not, I would recommend this film to anyone to remind them what their country means. I give this a grand round of applause!